John Spiers and Jon Boden performed a highly entertaining set at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 10th May. Celebrating over ten years of live performance as a duo, the pair structured the interval-less concert as something of a whistlestop tour through the folk traditions of the British Isles, with songs and tunes drawn from everywhere from Essex to Ireland. The warmth and sympathy of their interplay – Boden on fiddle; Spiers on accordion - emerged at its strongest on the crowd-pleasing instrumental pieces, especially the inimitable “Sloe Gin Set,” while a thrilling “Captain Ward,” and a captivating, tender “The Birth of Robin Hood” were among the highlights in terms of the songs, Boden’s distinctive, keening vocal style giving the material customary drama and drive.
Still, as accomplished as the two Jo(h)ns were, the highlight of the evening, for me, turned out to be the support set by Chris T-T, who - taking a break from his usual persona as a self-described “sweary, shouty folk-singer” - performed a selection of A. A Milne’s poems arranged for guitar and piano. The premise may have made you fear the worst (I certainly did), but the performance proved totally disarming: funny, charming and touching by turns. One moment the persuasive Mr. T-T had the audience enthusiastically pretending to be elephants; the next we were weeping at an extraordinarily moving rendition of “Binker,” Milne’s paean to a child’s imaginary friend. I’m all for “sweary, shouty” folk-singers, but the talented Mr. T-T might consider keeping up his generation-spanning collaboration with Mr. Milne, since it yields such good results. He's also a fine Twitterer: @christt.